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Reality to hit home on cable

Dec 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Cable is getting real to attract viewers.
Several top cable networks struck deals last week to beef up their schedules with a slew of reality entries, including new U.S.-produced episodes of a British import and programs featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell and NASCAR racing.
Comedy Central has signed a deal to produce new episodes of “Trigger Happy” after successfully running the imported British series starring Dom Joly. The cable channel has ordered between six and 13 domestically produced episodes that are set to air beginning April 17.
“The feedback we received from viewers was outstanding, and it was unfortunate that there were only 14 episodes of the British version,” said Jim Sharp, VP of development at Comedy Central. “It translated well across the Atlantic, and we look forward to airing new bits for `Trigger Happy’ fans.”
The series features unsuspecting bystanders who find themselves thrown into surreal stunts, thanks to series creator Mr. Joly. The series can feature as many as 40 bits per half-hour. Mr. Joly will return to tape new bits for the U.S. version, which will feature additional cast members, including Travis Draft and Jessica Makinson.
“This isn’t a show that focuses on the setup and how the mark reacts,” Mr. Sharp said. “It’s truly for the TV audience, and fans can look forward to seeing more of his signature bits soon.”
Meanwhile, MTV has tapped VH1 fashion favorite Naomi Campbell to host her own series, with a targeted debut of early to mid-2003, according to insiders. The series is said to be a cross between “Cribs” and a Travel Channel show.
Although Ms. Campbell is best known for her modeling career, she has also had some success as a recording artist and appeared in movies such as Spike Lee’s “Girl 6.”
An MTV spokeswoman could not confirm the series at press time.
The FX Network will continue to capitalize on the success of NASCAR racing and is in talks to produce a behind-the-scenes reality series about the stock car racing circuit. NASCAR ratings have continued to grow on the four networks that televise races, and the organization is looking to broaden its visibility. NASCAR racing is currently carried on FX, Fox, NBC and TNT. Sources said the exact nature of the series is still being hammered out.
These three series will join other shows announced recently by cable networks as the channels attempt to broaden their first-run offerings and strengthen their brands. Next month TNN will debut game show “Taboo,” hosted by Chris Wylde, which is based on the popular board game. USA Networks is preparing to launch two series for its Friday lineup: the Arnold Shapiro pilot “True Crimes of Passion,” hosted by Susan Dey, and John Walsh’s “Not by the Book,” which follows real-life detectives solving a puzzling case.